STARGAZERS in West Dorset are being encouraged to keep their eyes on the skies for the annual Perseids meteor shower.
Every year across the UK thousands of people turn into amateur astronomers to catch a glimpse of the ‘shooting stars’, a result of the material falling from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle.
While the Perseids meteor shower is an annual event between mid-July and mid-August, the best views this year are expected to be on the evening of Tuesday, August 12.
Clear skies are predicted across West Dorset, including Bridport and Lyme Regis, and up to 60 shooting stars an hour could be visible to the naked eye between Tuesday night, August 12, and early Wednesday morning.
The Perseids are one of the most prolific and best-known of the meteor showers. They were the first to be connected with a comet when astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli noted the relationship between their orbit and that of Comet Swift-Tuttle in 1862.
The meteor shower is named after Perseus, the point within the constellation from which it appears to originate.
You won’t need a telescope or binoculars, the display will be visible to the naked eye.
Meteors, commonly known as shooting stars, are the result of small particles entering the Earth's atmosphere at high speed. These heat the air around them, causing the characteristic streak of light seen from the ground.
They mostly appear as fleeting flashes lasting less than a second, but the brightest ones leave behind trails of vaporised gases and glowing air molecules that may take a few seconds to fade.
Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed near the Earth in 1992, will not visit again until the year 2125.
Eyes on the skies
Will you be watching the Perseids meteor shower? Send your pictures and thoughts on the shower to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01308 455905 for a chance to feature in the paper.
Top stargazing tips
POPULAR Bridport photographer Stephen Banks captured the stunning photograph (above) of a shooting star above East Cliff in West Bay last year.
The photo was taken from the harbour wall of West Bay.
Stephen told The News: “This photo wasn’t taken during the Perseids, but should give readers an indication of what to look out for.
“Considering this was shot with a very wide 14mm lens, the size of this meteor trail was pretty large.
“For those planning on watching the Perseids meteor shower this year, I’d say go to a dark part of the county, away from any towns and other light pollution.
“It would also be good to fill your view with the sky - it’s no good standing in front of your house - and just look up.
“The meteors appear anywhere in the sky, but all will originate from one point, Perseus, which can be located using a star finder app on your phone or tablet.
“At the Perseids’ peak, there can be as many as 60 to 100 meteors per hour. The moon isn’t favourable, however, as it is in its waning Gibbous phase, so people’s best bet is going out just before dawn on these days when the moon is quite low in the sky.”
Stephen’s work has brought him many accolades. One of his pictures made the front cover of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year collection book for 2013.
His shot of Portland Bill features on the front cover of the Trinity House Lighthouses Calendar for 2014, and many photography magazines have also featured his images.
In addition, Stephen created the Bridport by Night time-lapse project and made the Dorset by Night feature for the Spirit of Bridport.